Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's The Holiday Season...

Most years, I put a pretty nice Christmas list up on here, but this year, I've been having trouble coming up with things I'd like for Christmas. Most things I'd like aren't very exciting, like Starbucks or Target gift cards, new yoga pants, or more Smart Wool socks (please tell me you've worn them, please, they are heaven on your feet).

The few ideas I've had our:

These would be great for organizing items in my pantry like pasta, nuts, baking items, etc. and I would never buy them for myself.

I know I'm one book behind on her cook books, but I finally picked his up when I was browsing at Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago, and it has some really great recipes that I would love to try. I really love her picture by picture recipe directions.

Rugby Striped Sweatshirt From Gap

I am always in need of more casual clothes to wear on weekends that aren't either pajamas or work out clothes (my wardrobe basically consists of work clothes, and comfort clothes, very little in between) and am truly obsessed with this sweatshirt and don't whether I should bite the bullet and buy it, or wait until after Christmas. I think I'm going to wait, I just hope it's not sold out by then.

I still have quite a bit of Christmas shopping left to do. I've handled all the kids in our life, my friend Ashley who I exchange with each year, and my parents, but I still need to do Austin's daycare teachers, stocking stuffers for Austin and Ben, and Ben's siblings who's names were given to us. Wish me luck!

I went all out with our Christmas decorations this year and put out all that I had (besides breakable ornaments) since the last two years they have been sparse. When we were in our apartment there wasn't a lot of room for them, and last year I only put up so much because of having a newborn.

This year we have a minimally decorated tree (only unbreakfable ornaments) and a back corner so it doesn't attract little hands to grab at it.

The Department 56 News Station that I bought myself in 2005 when I worked in news. The call letters have lost some of their paint, but I still love it. I'm very glad I bought it before it was retired. I would really like to start collecting more Department 56 villages to have a whole set up.

And new this year is this ornament tree from Target (they only had the red version online) I had to have. It was 25% off last week, so I snatched it up.

It goes alongside the Pottery Barn deer received from Ben's sister a few years ago, and the most pinteresty project I've ever done, a cookie jar full of red ornaments with a strand of lights wooven between them. That's as crafty as I get.

Even though Austin still doesn't "get" Christmas, it will be even more special this year because he loves opening gifts and having new toys to play with. He loves throwing tissue paper in the air and looking in boxes when packages in the arrive in the mail, so it should be a lot of fun.

What is on your Christmas list??

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gluten Free for Thanksigving

We will again be hosting Thanksgiving this year for my parents at our house (and I say "hosting" loosely, because my mom does as much of the cooking as I do) and again be bringing gluten free into the mix so that one of my favorite holidays, doesn't end up making me sick.

One would think Thanksgiving would be an easy gluten free holiday, since the main components are meat and potatoes, but it can be more challenging than that. Many turkeys are infused with flavorings that are not gluten free, and pre-stuffed ones are obviously out of the question.

Last year, I thought the only place to get a gluten free fresh turkey would be Whole Foods, and ended up spending $45 for a turkey. This year, things are looking better, as Wegmans has gluten free fresh turkeys (and when I called they said all their fresh and frozen turkey are gluten free) for $.59 a pound--awesome!

Also, I'm going to try and track down some gluten free stuffing this year. My friend Amy over at the Savvy Celiac just did a review and picked her favorite gluten free stuffing, Aleia, which is available at Giant stores in the DC area it appears.

My parents enjoy traditional dressing instead of stuffing, so they usually buy some from the grocery store deli and scoop it individually on their plates, as to not cross contaminate.

Making pies for Thanksgiving is a huge tradition in our family, and this year I'll be making an apple pie with the Williams Sonoma Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix. I can't wait to try it! The past two years I used my mom's pie crust recipe, substituting in Glutino Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix, and although I love that blend for most baking, it didn't cut it for pie crust, and was rather dry. Williams Sonoma has a great variety of gluten free baking mixes; I've tired the chocolate cake and brownies and loved them both, so I'm hoping the pie crust will be the same.

I'm also very excited to try the Trader Joes Cranberry Orange Relish I found there this week. I'm not going to lie, I heard it mentioned on one of their radio ads, and it inspired me to go there to get it. I'm a sucker for good marketing.

I made my own version of Cranberry Orange Relish last year, based on a friend's family recipe, and it was extremely delicious, especially on the leftover turkey sandwiches. I'm hoping Trader Joes doesn't disappoint. It has no gluten containing ingredients, but does say its made in a place where wheat is also present.

For gravy for the mashed potates, I have used a gluten free, pre-made variety that I've found at Whole Foods, and find it good. It's a bit thin, but has good flavor, and is the only gluten free pre-made gravy I've ever been able to find. However, this year, I've decided to try this gravy mix and see how it turns out. I'm hoping its thick with good flavoring.

I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner this year, and the great leftovers that always follow. I can't wait to watch Austin enjoy his first real Thanksgiving meal (last year he was three weeks old, and still on a milk only diet, poor guy just got to smell all the good food!). I think he will love the turkey, potatoes, stuffing and will think gravy on top of it all is delicious!

Also, the winner of the Old El Paso giveaway is Cori Westphal, who helped me pick, and said her favorite weeknight meal is spaghetti. Congratulations Cori! Thanks everyone for entering and check back for more giveaways in the future.  

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Giveaway: Old El Paso Meals and Gift Set

Per usual it's been a crazy month. The last week in October, in particular, with Austin turning one, and then Halloween a few days later.

In true fashion, the little guy loved his birthday cake.

Turning one was definitely a bigger deal for mom than it was for Austin. I had a lot of tears putting him to bed one last time as a baby the night before his birthday.

Austin, just knew that he loved having a couple little friends over for his party and opening gifts that he now can't stop playing with.

He had two Halloween parties to attend, and trick or treating, and I think he was very done with his puppy costume by the time the week was over.

I, however, couldn't get enough of how cute he looked in it. He thought trick or treating was okay, but really loved the party at my work where he could crawl around between cubes, and pick out candy (he was really drawn to grabbing Butterfingers, must be something about the yellow).

On crazy weeks like this one, cooking is hard. I try to plan ahead, I have a weekly menu planned out on Sunday that I shop for, and sometimes chop things up, or cook up meat ahead of time. Sometimes though, even with the best intentions that doesn't happen.

So, when General Mills came to me to try their new Old El Paso frozen entree meals, I was sold.
Ben and I tried the Chicken Enchiladas this week. I was impressed to see no gluten ingredients on the list of ingredients (no claims of gluten free though, but for the record, I did not have a reaction). There are other options as well, including burritos and quesadillas.

These enchiladas definitely aren't "clean" food per say, I mean, they're a processed, frozen entree, what do you expect? But they are great for nights when you don't want to get take out, but can't pull off a homemade meal forgot to set out meat to thaw, etc. They were ready in under 30 minutes, and required little prep from me.

Ben said he liked them, but could they could have used more cheese (he complains about that with MY enchiladas too though, recipe found here). He also said that they could have used some sour cream on the side and I agreed (we were out, I like sour cream on all Mexican foods, chillies, etc.). The pan included six enchiladas and Ben and I were perfectly full splitting that with no additional sides.

Old El Paso and General Mills are now offering one of my readers the chance to try these new entrees, with the same prize pack they gave me, which includes:
  • A coupon for a free Old El Paso Frozen Entree
  • $10 Visa Gift Card for fixins with your entree
  • A cute Blue chips and dip serving dish
If you'd like to try and win, leave a comment telling me your favorite week night meal. If you would like an additional entry, tweet about this giveaway and use my twitter handle @AlexaTC and #MyBlogSpark and comment telling me you've tweeted. The giveaway closes on Tuesday, November 12 at 11:59 p.m. and I will e-mail the winner.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

What I Bought at Trader Joes

Quite some time ago, fellow blogger Beth did a post on her Trader Joe's Essentials, and I thought, "I need to do that." I love Trader Joe's, and the quirky items you can find there that you can't find other places, not to mention the good prices for produce, and there are certain staple items I always pick up on a TJ's run, and then random treasures in between. (Side Note: Check out the transformation Beth has made, losing a ton of weight with Weight Watchers, and now having her excess skin removed. She looks amazing and is a maintaining super star).

I thought today's trip to Trader Joe's would be a great example of what I usually buy there, plus some other goodies, because I had just run a couple miles, not eaten enough after, and was hankering for a huge plate of everything, therefore, a lot of things ended up in my cart.

Produce: Vegetable Tray with carrots, jicama, pea pods and cherry tomatoes, Spinach Super Salad, Red Apple Slices, Cilantro and Mango
What These Can Make: I used the jicama, mango and cilantro for a funky little salad with some lime juice on top, the apple slices are mainly for my husband who doesn't like to eat apples off the core, or take the time to slice one, so they're great for his work lunches. The Spinach Super Salad was a first time find that I can't wait to take to work for lunch with quinoa, pinto beans, edamame, ginger dressing, etc. This salad was a great impulse buy.

Dairy: Pumpkin Greek Yogurt, Double Cream Brie Cheese, and Goat Cheese with Apples and Cinnamon
What These Can Make: I've been really digging brie, apple and turkey sandwiches made in my sandwich press for a quick meal (if you have never put apples slices on your sandwiches, I advise you do it, now!) They have light brie at Trader Joe's, but it's really just not very good and not worth the calories, I have to go full fat with this item. That goat cheese was a first find for me, I believe it's seasonal, and would not have ended up in my cart had I not had hungry eyes. Slices of it will end up in my lunch with a few crackers. I'm a big fan of goat cheese mixed with honey and eating it globbed onto apple slices, so this is the next best thing. The pumpkin Greek yogurt will be enjoyed solo, or with granola.

Frozen and Meat: Reduced Guilt Baked Ziti, Reduced Guilt Macaroni and Cheese, Penne Pepperonata, Creamy Polenta, Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage
What These Can Make: The Reduced Guilt meals are my husbands easy meals for work lunches if he doesn't have leftovers. He also picked up the Penne Pepperonata for a convenience meal when we don't follow through on a dinner plan. I like the creamy potlenta to pair with when we grill out meat for dinner. I used the Smoke Andouille for this Spicy Sausage Skillet Recipe. I also use the Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage for the Polenta, Goat Cheese and Red Sauce mix I blogged about before.

Grocery: Allergen Free Snickerdoodles, Individual portioned Trail Mix, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Polenta, Pumpkin Butter, Honey and Pumpkin Body Butter
What These Can Make: Most of these items are snack items, the tubed polenta is what I use for the recipe with Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage linked above. Pumpkin Butter goes great on the Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes, or toast, bagel, in oatmeal, etc.--it's delicious! It's also packed with sugar, so it's important to watch the serving size. I've been going through a lot of honey, as lately I've been making batches of these Energy Bites (my husband says that's a mask of a name for cookies--he's partially right!). They're freaking amazing, and I have to control myself around them. And the Pumpkin Body Butter? Well, it just jumped up in my cart! ;)

With all my love for TJ's, I do have two beefs:
  1. Their produce goes bad quickly. Which is why I'm guessing it's affordable. Don't buy something on Sunday you won't use until Friday, eat it within three days, four days tops.
  2. Some great items I've found there have gone away without explanation. Not because they're seasonal, sometimes, they're just gone, and it drives me bonkers. 
I would love to hear your favorite items from Trader Joe's!

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Thursday, September 26, 2013


There has been a lot of this, and a little of that around here lately. Nothing enough to dedicate a post, filling you in on all of it one big catch up post!

I completed a couple of 5K fun runs lately. First, the Dulles Day 5K with Ben where we ran on a runway at Dulles Airport a couple weeks back. It was a great run on a flat and seamless surface (that's what happens when you get to run on an airport runway!), perfect fall crisp air for running, and a little morning date with just him and I.


I don't really keep track of my times often, but I believe I achieved a personal best at this race thanks in part to the awesome conditions.

 Post Race

I also ran The Color Run with my friend Kristin last weekend. Run would be a liberal term, because we walk/jogged most of it. It's not a race you can really run for competition, but a lot of fun, and had beautiful scenery at the National Harbor near DC. I had never been to that area, and now want to go back with the family. It was great to a girls morning with Kristin that was also some exercise.

On Beautiful National Harbor

I attended a Container Store Grand Opening Preview Party last week. The organization freak in me was loving walking around, checking out different ideas for organizing our life (I always feel like there is clutter in our house, no matter how much I work to eliminate it). The event wasn't for shopping, but browsing, had a large jazz band, and heavy drinks and appetizers. The folks at Container Store were very generous with the food and drink spread, and I loved how they incorporated their organization products into serving dishes.

Mail Organizers Full of Apps!

In the kitchen, I've been in a bit of a recipe rut, but using a few staple recipes I really enjoy. Including these ones:
**I substitute many items in recipes to make them gluten free, if you have questions on how I do it, let me know, happy to help!

I did try one new recipe recently, for Quinoa Cakes with a Black Bean Salsa, yum!

Quinoa Cakes and Black Bean Salsa

I recommend pairing the Quinoa Cakes with a small chicken breast or hearty salad on the side to make it a full, filling meal.

I'm prepping for a large fall shopping trip in the next few weeks. I haven't refreshed my closet, besides a few items from Target, in what feels like forever. So, I'm taking an afternoon to just go shopping alone, and pick up some fall and winter staples. It may be dorky to say--but I am SO excited!! I've been bookmarking items online to checkout when I'm at the stores--and I just cannot wait to do some focused power shopping.

I'm most psyched to go to a store, and have someone help me find the perfect pair of jeans. I have a few pair that fit me well, but not great, post-baby, and I want a pair I can feel confident wearing with anything. Shouldn't everyone have one pair of jeans like that?? The challenge will be finding a pair that fit in my budget, as well as feel and look great.

Any recommendations on clothing items, shoes or accessories you've purchased lately that you just love? I'd love any tips!

And I'll fill you all in on my purchases after they're made, expect a lot of awkward selfies. =)

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Countdown to One: My First Year Must Haves

As we quickly approach on my little guy's first birthday (I know, I can hardly believe it). I've been looking back on the items that made this first year so much easier. Items I will surely have on hand when I have my next one (and watch them not need any of them and throw me for a parenting loop by being completely different from their brother). Here are a few items I would recommend every new parent have on hand:

We loved these sleep sacks, and specifically the ones with swaddle capabilities the first few months, because they were warm with a onesie underneath, and easy to use. Neither Ben, nor I, could get a good, tight swaddle with a blanket that we felt comfortable leaving Austin to sleep in, and these were a great alternative. Austin loved sleeping swaddled, and he loves to cuddle and be held close, and these were very easy. Getting into the sack is also a great sleep cue for him. Now, that he can't be swaddled, we use the cotton or fleece ones without the swaddle, and they work great for sleeping in a blanketless crib.

At around five weeks, Austin was a fussy mess. He would cry for no reason, and let out huge farts after huge lags of crying that left us wondering what happened to our easy going little guy. We tired Gripe Water, and it worked a bit, but not very well after a couple days. Then, we tried these drops (we used the name brand Little Remedies for awhile, then started using the Target generic brand because they were three dollars cheaper) and they brought our happy guy back. We were told by our pediatrician (go to your own doctor for dosing advice), that you really couldn't overdose on these drops, and we would give him a few before each feeding, and in between if he started to act up. They saved me when I was having days straight of misery that left me having more than one meltdown.

The Rock and Play was great for when I needed to shower, or when Austin was having a fussy night in his crib and needed another sleep solution (we had Austin sleeping in his crib in his own room from the first night home, it was great for all of our sleep situation). There were nights when Austin went through his, "I won't go back to sleep after I eat during the night" phases, where the Rock and Play was positioned next to my bed, and I would groggily be rocking it with one arm reached out trying to get him to fall back to sleep. When I went back to work, Austin hung out in the rock and play while I got ready in the morning. He also would take cat naps in the living room in this guy. It is light weight and easy to move around the house, and was very simple to put together.

Next comes the Wubba Nub. On those nights when Austin wasn't in the mood to go back to sleep, the Wubba Hub helped when he wouldn't keep his pacifier in. I wouldn't recommend leaving an infant alone sleeping with a Wubba Nub because of the toy on the end and suffocation risk, but when I was right next to him trying my best to stay awake, while he started at me all wide eyed like, "it's 3am, wake up Mom!" this was great for keeping a pacifier in, as he loved resting his hands on the little toy and held the pacifier in better than a traditional one.

Austin's sleep sheep and also sound machine with projection were a life saver for sleep training. We use both and he knows when the music comes on, it's night, night time. Heck, I love the sleep sheep now, and the sound of crashing waves lulls me right to sleep thanks to it emitting that sound.

This subscription was a life saver. We still use it for diaper delivery (20% off with subscribe and save!), but the first two weeks home, it was amazing. When we figured out sleep sacks were the key, ordered two more, when Dr. Brown's bottles worked the best, ordered another box...and the list goes on. It was great to have things delivered when getting out of the house with a newborn was such a production. I didn't like taking Austin in many public, crowded places before his eight week vaccinations, and I also couldn't drive for two weeks post c-section, so it was a three person trip out, or Ben leaving Austin and I at home, secluded to one floor since I didn't feel comfortable carrying him up and down stairs right after the surgery. Amazon Prime (or Amazon Mom) offers free two-day shipping that is awesome. There were a few weeks between my Amazon orders, and wonderful baby gifts, that the UPS man was at our house daily. The initial sign-up cost for Amazon Prime is totally worth it.

I could go on and on about other items I love, but these were the ones I loved the most. I hope this helps other parents and parents to be. What are some of your must have items??

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chicken Wild Rice Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes, loosely based on a recipe my mom uses to make this. My husband is not a big fan of cold salads, so I usually end up making this for parties since it makes such a large portion.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

You start by mixing together green onions, dried cranberries, cooked chicken breasts, and a green apple.

At the same time, blend together a sliced white onion, sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar and olive oil

While you're doing all this, cook two cups of wild rice according to package directions.

Mix all together and voila!


A delicious salad that's great to bring to get togethers or summer dinners. I don't have the photography skills to make it look beautiful, but trust me, it's delicious.

Chicken Wild Rice Salad Recipe:

Combine Salad Ingredients in large bowl:
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 green apple, chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Combine Dressing Ingredients in Blender or Food Processor:
1 small white onion, sliced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tablespoons prepared mustard (I used Grey Poupon)

Blend all the dressing ingredients, and then pour over salad ingredients in bowl and stir, then serve cold, or refrigerate until served. 

This recipe is easy if you make the rice and chicken ahead of time, and of course, is Gluten Free!

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Best Sangria(s) You've Never Tasted...yet

I never tried Sangria until a few years ago, I'm not quite sure when, but I know that I loved it from the start. Then, in 2009 I attended the couples shower of my friend's Wendy and Ben in Minneapolis, and their friend Sarah who writes the blog "Dish and Tell," made this Sangria. It was love at first sip. When I asked for the recipe, she gladly obliged, and when I found out how easy it was, I was sold even more! I've made it for a few parties, including a bridal shower I hosted, and it's always been a hit. Hats off to Sarah!

I've tried many Sangrias in the bottle, and from restaurant bars, and never felt the same love after trying Sarah's blend. I enjoy the Candy Apple Sangria from Chef Geoff's when we visit there, it's also very affordable, so that helps it's cause.

But, now I've finally found a bottled Sangria that competes with the Dish and Tell recipe...and it's about the same price as a glass from Chef Geoff's.

Trader Joes Sangria. That's right, the people who brought you Three (Once Two) Buck Chuck, have now brought you $6.99 Sangria, in a plastic bottle to boot, that's freaking delicious.

So, if you have the time, I recommend whipping up Sarah's Sangria for a party, but if you don't, or it's a night in and you don't need as big of a batch, I recommend stopping by Trader Joes for this summer treat.

This Sangria may go perfectly with a recipe I made this week, Enchilada Rice. Weeknight easy, and pretty cheap to make with the oodles of left overs it produces. 

Any favorite affordable and delicious drinks you've found this summer? Or easy and yummy recipes?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Biggest Loser 10K Recap

My friend Lauren and I met when I moved to Davenport, Iowa in May of 2006. She and I both worked at the same news station, she as a reporter/anchor, and me as a producer, and lived down the hall from each other in our apartment building. We were fast friends for many reasons, both around the same age, single, similar college and family background, and mostly--neither of us liked Davenport!

We spent every day trying to make the most of our experience there though; pedicures, shopping trips at the tiny excuse for a mall, road trips, nights out dancing, and many nights in watching bad tv and whipping up meals while sipping Moscato D'asti wine. We coined ourselves the "old ladies" because of how we gallivanted around town together, and often provided our snarky commentary on many things to each other, much like the Old Men in the Balcony on The Muppets.

Old Ladies, Alexa and Lauren, at the World's Largest Truck Stop in Walcott, Iowa
Lauren left Davenport in October 2006, and I left in April 2007. We've kept in touch through the last seven years, but never been able to actually see each other. Lauren moved to New York City, got married, and is now a Nurse Practitioner (talk about a career change!) and you know my story. When I moved to DC, we knew it would be easier to see each other being a four hour drive apart, but had yet to do it, this past weekend, that changed.

Lauren and her husband came down from New York Saturday morning, and spent the weekend with us. We had such a great time seeing them, and I was so excited to finally meet her husband Ryan, and have her meet Ben and Austin. Part of our trip, was Lauren, Ryan and I running The Biggest Loser sponsored 10K race.

Saturday, we met them at Union Station, went to pick up our race packets, and then had a great lunch at District of Pi. Their gluten free pizza was delicious, and I've been wanting to try there forever, and am glad I finally did.

We then headed back to Northern Virginia and took these New York City dwellers out the suburbs where we relaxed, had a great dinner, went to Sweet Frog for frozen yogurt before trying to get to bed early for the race.

The race didn't start until 9:00 a.m., which I knew could be trouble with a high of 91 predicated for Sunday, and the DC humidity. The heat, humidity and sun were blasting, much like I predicted, when we started the race just after 9:00.

Seven Years Later: Two Tired Looking Old Ladies Pre-Race
The race was inspiring in many ways. It was all about getting out there and being active, no matter what your athletic ability or size, and I never felt pressure like I was going too slow, or it wasn't OK to walk. There were also several Biggest Loser Alumni at the packet pick up, and throughout the race, including Michael (below) from the latest season, cheering people on on the course.

Michael from Biggest Loser, Season 14
I was disappointed that the race was basically loops through the RFK Stadium Parking Lot. I'm sure this made it cheaper for the organizers, because then they didn't have to get street permits from the city, but running on the black top with no shade was SO hot, not to mention boring. They also didn't have good organization to tell runners exactly which way to go doing these zig zags and loops, especially for 5K vs.10K. At one point I stopped and asked someone which way I should go.

I know they are doing a Biggest Loser race series at various spots throughout the nation, and honestly, I wouldn't recommend it. I thought they really did things on the cheap, besides the tech shirt, for this race, but didn't pass on that frugality to the participants, as it was $50 for a 10K entry. 

That said, I was so glad we ran the race, and it gave Lauren and Ryan further reason to come down and visit us. After the race, we had brunch at Logan Tavern with a couple of their friends who also live in DC. I had a great post meal race there-a chorizo omelet, delicious! I don't get to the Logan Circle neighborhood often, and would surely go here again. Ryan and Lauren enjoyed their Build Your Own Bloody Mary offerings.

I left brunch to head home to Austin and Ben where we hit the pool for some much needed refreshment. All in all, it was a great weekend with wonderful friends, food, exercise and feeling exhausted by the time Sunday night hit.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Post Baby Weight Loss: The Real Deal From a Working Mom on a Budget

I went into pregnancy weight loss mode with the thought that it took nine months to get there (well, technically ten) and then it would take nine months to get back. I knew that real change is gradual, and there was no quick fix.

11 Days Before Giving Birth, October 16, 37 Weeks

I ate a lot of what I wanted when I was pregnant and looking back, I will not be as liberal with my eating in my next pregnancies. However, after having such bad morning sickness in the first trimester, when I hit 14 weeks and enjoyed nearly all foods again (I still can't do ground beef very well) without puking or nausea all day, I let myself go a little wild. I reeled it back in, but then the last month of pregnancy, I ate anything I wanted because I was just feeling so huge and miserable.  I worked out by walking outside and on the treadmill at the gym, and weekly yoga sessions nearly my whole pregnancy, but felt uncomfortable weight training as my abs would pull during exercises, so I didn't do that.
1 Day Before Giving Birth, October 26, 39 Weeks Pregnant: 195 Pounds

As I said before, I was 195 lbs when I delivered, after being 145 pounds when I got pregnant while doing a strict Weight Watchers and workout routine, 145 pounds is a hard weight for me to maintain. I was 178 lbs when I came home from the hospital (I weighed myself a few days after we got home, it was NOT at the top of my priorities when we first arrived home).

Seven Days Postpartum, November 2, New Born Pictures
I was then 166 pounds when I started Weight Watchers and went back to work at 12 weeks postpartum. I went back to work still wearing maternity pants, with mainly regular tops and bigger dresses, and felt fine with it.

So, needless to say, the first 30ish pounds were not that hard to lose. Once I started being more conscious of what I ate, and moving more around eight weeks postpartum I lost about five pounds and got to the 166 number. But these last 20ish pounds, holy hell people, it's been a fight.

I am a woman who enjoys food. Not the huge burgers and greasy fries, but I enjoy munching and carbs, and if I have one cookie, I want two more. And that's what Weight Watchers does for me, it doesn't have me obsessing over everything I eat, but it helps me portion control, and I need that. I need someone to say, three handfuls of Reece's Pieces is not a treat, it's an over indulgence, and one handful will do.

I need a program that tells me peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast is not a good choice even if other food bloggers try to tell me it's what they eat, for me, that's 11 freaking points--just for breakfast! It tells me that starving myself with cheese, crackers and fruit at lunch isn't a good choice either, and will only lead to over eating later because my blood sugar will be a mess.

Four Months and One Week Postpartum, with a fellow new mama, March 8: 160.2 Pounds
During this process, the weight came off slowly, at my best weeks, I would lose 1.5-2 pounds, at my worst, I'd gain half a pound, or only lose .2 pounds.

The weight came off in my upper thigh and hip area easily, and my arms firmed up by focusing on strength training super sets where my heart rate was up with squats and lunges, while I did arm curls, raises, etc. My stomach has always been my problem area, and no surprise, it's the place that's the toughest now to lose the last of the weight. Some of this is extra skin from my body stretching for baby, and some pants I used to fit into just fine, no matter how much weight I lose, may never fit me comfortably again because of this.

Right now, my body is not exactly how it looked pre-baby, and I don't know if it ever will be. That's not an excuse, it's a fact. I have excess skin, I have stretch marks, and my chest is not what it used to be by any means, and some days, those things get me down. They make me feel discouraged and bad about myself,  and Ben takes the brunt of hearing this lamenting. Some days I look at old two piece bathing suits, knowing I'll never wear them again, and it makes me sad.

Nearly Five Months Postpartum, March 23: 159 Pounds
And then, honestly, when I go in public and see what others are dealing with for obesity in this nation, I feel pretty damn good about myself. I feel good that I have fought to not only look and feel good, but to be healthy for my family, and for me. I feel grateful for a husband who has supported me 100% through losing weight and reminds me when I get down that he loves me, and the way I look always, and appreciates all my body accomplished for our family.

Mostly, I feel grateful that I get to have these problems. After wanting and trying for a healthy baby for what felt like forever (in reality, it was nine months, but when you're trying, that feels like forever!) I feel so lucky to have a beautiful little boy, who brings more joy to my life than a flat stomach, or two piece bathing suit ever could. I wouldn't trade him for my old body in a heartbeat.

With all that said, I have to say, I'm not as caught up in my weight as I was pre-baby. It's not that I don't care, I mean, obviously, I did Weight Watchers for a reason, so I care to a certain extent. But that's just it, I care to a certain extent, but, I just have bigger things to deal with. I don't beat myself up as much for missteps in eating, or missing a workout, but chalk it up to that day, and move on.

There is no special trick to losing the baby weight (shocker, I know!), just like there isn't with any other weight loss process. If you're an average American woman like me, who returned to work at 12 weeks postpartum, and doesn't have the money for a chef or a full time trainer, it's hard, but it's not impossible.

I did work out with a personal trainer at my work's gym a few times for some 30 minute sessions during my lunch hour to get a base for strength training again when they were running a training price special. I also trained for my ten mile race and half marathon with my friend Lynne. Having those race goals made me go out for runs even on days when I didn't want to. I would surely have a goal like that again post baby, but maybe not the length of a half marathon, a ten mile would do.

I'm not down the complete 50 pounds I gained. My goal was to hit 149 pounds, and I've done that, and a little better some weeks. I'm at the weight category now where my weight fluctuates by a pound or two depending on my eating and exercise routine that week. I'm most comfortable and able to still live life without being insanely strict around 148-149 pounds, thus the reason I don't think my pre-pregnancy weight of 145 pounds is a realistic everyday goal for me.

So there you have it. My post baby weight loss journey. The journey isn't over, being healthy and not eating desserts for breakfast is an every day thing for me. I hope to share this journey with you again as we forge ahead and one day welcome Baby Cush 2.0, 3.0...and beyond to our family.

8.5 Months Postpartum, July 11: 149 Pounds

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I'm coming to you as a 30 year old woman. In the two weeks I've been MIA, I've had good reason to be MIA, as it has been craaaazy. We had family at our place the end of June, including my adorable three month old nephew and two year old niece. Besides spending some great time together, we celebrated my thirtieth birthday with a trip to the National Zoo, Lunch at Redwood in downtown Bethesda, Maryland and dinner at my favorite restaurant in the DC area, Chef Geoffs.

Ben also surprised me with gluten free cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. They are still the best gluten free cupcakes I've ever tasted. He also surprised me with a gift card to Lululemon to finally buy myself a pair of Wunder Unders. Ahhhh!! I am so, SO excited to finally buy a pair of these. These are the pants so ass flattering that they have their own tumblr created in honor to them. Can anyone who owns a pair, or pines for a pair, recommend a certain style or color?

I was awful about taking pictures during that weekend, and during 4th of July festivities.

I did document the way my co-workers decorated my cube for my birthday.

It was hilarious to come in on a Friday morning and find these decorations.

Check out my allergy story that appeared on My Wise Mom recently. I love putting the word out there about being diagnosed with Celiac, and hopefully helping others who are suffering and this story may help them get diagnosed.

I've also found a new favorite Gluten Free Snack Bar from Van's Natural Foods, that I actually spotted at Target of all places! Great to be able to to find them at a "normal" store that I regularly go to, instead of having to make a trip to a specialty store.

These are really delicious, a great snack at work, and only four Weight Watchers Points.

Speaking of Weight Watchers, I have an update on my post baby weight loss situation that I'll write about next week. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and what it's taken to try and lose the 50 lbs I gained while pregnant.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

June in a Nut Shell

June has flown by! We spent ten days in the Midwest where Austin hung out with his grandparents, and met a lot of friends and relatives who haven't seen him yet. And we were able to attend a friend's wedding while Ben's cousins babysat him one night.

At one point when a group of my girlfriends and I were hanging out at our hotel while Ben went and caught a Twins game, I looked down and found Austin and Jen taking a selfie.

It was so great to get back to the Midwest, especially when the weather had finally perked up. There are so many things I miss about our old neighborhood near Minneapolis, but weather is not one of them!

This was Austin's third plane ride. He's quite a frequent flyer, and so far has done great on each flight (knock on wood), but the older he gets the more squirmy he gets. I found out recently that if a plane has extra seats, the airline can't deny you of bringing on your car seat (instead of plane side checking it) and using that seat for your child. We did that on the way home, and it was fantastic! Austin slept from take off until nearly the end of the flight, and then drank a bottle while we landed. It was especially good after our 7:00 a.m. flight, meaning the little guy was up at 4:45. 

I had to fill you all in on the best pair of workout pants I've found. Whether for running, strength training, spinning, etc. These are great! I can see why certain sizes and colors are selling out at Here's a link if you want to check them out.

Also, check out the blog My Wise Mom on Wednesday where I'll be telling my gluten free allergy story. I'm excited to share it on Kerry's awesome blog! She'll also touch on something I haven't shared on the blog yet, that Austin has a dairy and soy allergy.

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